Tag Archives: KHYF

Viniyoga (trademarked) and #MeToo

pondicherry sign
Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining

The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?  Life in this here Modern Yoga World.

I’m coming out of self-imposed writing exile to write about Kausthub Desikachar again.  The latest is that he trademarked the word “Viniyoga.”   Here is his justification for the trademark.   The word “viniyoga” is in the Yoga Sutra-s so it is as if Kausthub is trademarking the word “AUM.”  Whaaat?!  I’m told that he is already sending cease and desist letters to those using the word “Viniyoga.”

Leslie Kaminoff wrote his response to Kausthub’s trademarking.  Leslie has said all that needs to be said about it, in my opinion.  I won’t add anything else other than I believe it’s all ego on Kausthub’s part and extremely misguided.  It would make more sense to trademark “Desikachar Yoga” like “Forrest Yoga” or “Bikram Yoga” or “Jois Yoga” but “Viniyoga” as a style?  Since he does not have an heir to carry on the Krishnamacharya Yoga lineage (he has a teenage daughter from a first marriage who has no interest in yoga), maybe that is his reasoning?  One can only speculate.

The ill will and anger he is creating is his own karma.  It would not be the first time that shit rains down on a yoga teacher because of EGO.  You can draw your own conclusions from both writings.

BY THE WAY, KAUSTHUB, I AM ALSO LINEAGE HOLDER
OF YOUR GRANDFATHER’S YOGA TRADITION.
JUST BECAUSE YOU TRADEMARKED A WORD
DOESN’T MAKE THAT LESS SO.

As for the #metoo movement, it affected me.  Deeply.  I have my own #metoo stories as a survivor but not from the yoga world.   At the time I looked at the Facebook pages of certain yoga teachers who were accused of sex abuse to see if they came out to own their shit, to support women.  Kausthub was one whose page I looked at.  Nothing.  Crickets.  For those who need a reminder, this is the first piece I wrote about him in 2012.  I also wrote about him here and here.

I know those who are currently studying with him in India and I respect their judgment.  I am not going to disavow friendships because of whom they choose to study with.  I also attended a workshop he taught last year in Dixon, IL given at a woman’s house because frankly, no Chicago area yoga studio will host him (that I am aware of.)  That being said, John Friend has no shortage of workshop opportunities from what I hear so who knows if Kausthub will teach here in the future.

Quite honestly, I went because I was curious, to see if things had changed with him.  I last saw Kausthub at length in 2006 in India.  Kausthub was an arrogant albeit excellent, even brilliant, teacher.  I previously wrote about him when he gave a lecture in one of my KYM intensives about 5 years later.  At the Dixon IL weekend the wisdom teachings in the yoga tradition that I have studied for 10+ years were wonderful, but all weekend I felt that something wasn’t right, something felt off to me about him.  Kausthub asked me if I wanted to bring students to his new school in Chennai as I had to KYM in 2013.  I couldn’t and I wouldn’t.  I also would no longer bring students to KYM either (given another “yoga war” which is another subject), however, I won’t tell people not to study there.

Now Kausthub says that Viniyoga (R with a circle around it) “honors women.”

I will leave that right here and you can digest it given all that went down in 2012.  As Australian yoga studio owner, Nikola Ellis, asked, “What does Kausthub Desikachar have in common with Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein?  They’re all great supporters and defenders of women (and partial to trademarking).”

The stats he cites are just that.  Stats.  Everyone knows that yoga is practiced mainly by women and the majority of teachers are women.  KHYF does not hold women higher merely because a high percentage of women study there.

Kausthub also mentions his mother.  When I was in India in 2013 I was told that his mother was encouraging women to study with her son even during the uproar of the accusations against him.

Ironically Kausthub’s message about how he honors women arrived on the same day that Yoga Alliance published their new policy on sexual misconduct.

This morning I received this email.  I don’t know who sent it (obviously someone who has my email address) or who the “concerned yoga teachers and women” are, but I believe the trademarking together with his statement on “honoring women” lit the flames of a long simmering seemingly unresolved outrage:

Kausthub Desikachar, son of TKV Desikachar and grandson of T Krishnamacharya, was reported to have abused numerous students in 2012. The allegations were extensive, pointing to serial and systemic misconduct, but were either covered up or not examined impartially.

Kausthub, and his organization, KHYF, are now aggressively promoting themselves through his family connection to his famous father and grandfather. He is offering program on topics closely related to his alleged abuses, such as granthis, shadow side of yoga etc.

He has also been registered by the Yoga Alliance recently.

More details here: https://saveyogasavewomen.org.

By sharing this and adding your voice to this message, you are doing the right thing. If the allegations have no foundation, then Kausthub will address the issue and clear himself. If there is truth to it, as we have significant reason to believe, then you will stop more people from being hurt.

Please share this email and our website. Speak up against serial and systematic misconduct. Support ethics and abuse prevention in yoga.

You can also write to the Yoga Alliance at: iwanttohelpya@yogaalliance.org.

Thank you.

Namaste,

A group of concerned yoga teachers and women

I knew in my bones that as soon as the shit hit the fan with his trademark, that someone would again raise the topic of his sexual misconduct.  It was only a matter of time.  Some of the things I referred to in my posts in 2012 are also mentioned on this new website such as how KYM and long time teachers knew and did nothing.  You can read all the links on the site.

As much as I abhor Kausthub’s actions from 2012, still think he has a massive ego, and his trademarking of the word “Viniyoga” is extremely misguided, I believe that anonymous attacks are questionable.  When I wrote about Kausthub, I put myself on the line.  When I reviewed his book on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika,  I put my reputation on the line.  When I attended the weekend workshop with him last year I put myself on the line because of what I wrote in 2012.  I was accused of being an enabler by people who don’t know me and by some who do, none of whom knew anything about my reasons for doing his workshop last year.  I am not responsible for what people think about me.  My true friends never doubted me for a moment.

I understand the need for an outlet for victims/survivors.
During the #Metoo discussion I saw the face of my rapist in my mind’s eye daily. 

But an anonymous website, should it be done that way?  I don’t know and I am certainly not going to tell a victim/survivor what they should or should not do.  You can draw your own conclusions about the “save yoga save women” website.

Kausthub will never see the inside of a courthouse.  Instead, he will have to deal with the court of public opinion that can be more brutal than what happens inside a real courthouse.

Karma bites us all in the ass in one way or another.  The Universe pushes us towards things we are supposed to do and things we are not supposed to do.  Sometimes we go against our better judgment and do questionable things anyway.  There are lessons in all of it.  My teacher in Chicago just shrugs his shoulders and says, “Life.”

One thing I’ve come to realize in my old age is that there are no enlightened beings, only enlightened actions.

Kausthub-gate: the latest

Below is an email I received from the KYM this morning.  It’s a damn good thing that KYM has finally publicly condemned Kausthub.   As I said in my  first post about this, I know Dr. Latha as a wonderful teacher and am confident that she won’t tolerate any shenanigans.

The link to this new blog yogascandals was sent to me by the former KYM teacher whose 2007 letter to Desikachar was published online.  In her opinion it is “some ray of hope for the women, an open forum for sharing in anonymity.”  As the blog’s creator wrote:

“this blog is available to anyone to share their stories, with as much anonymity as you wish. if you have a anything to share for any reason, you can send me a comment to any post and I will contact you. I will not publish anything second hand, and I will not add my own commentary to any content.

my reason for doing this is to bring to the public eye, what is being held in exclusive circles of the sangha, the senior teachers, the khyf, kym etc. No one seems to address the confusion and distress of the affected or the students. So many people have spent so much time, dedication, loyalty, respect and money on this teacher and the KHYF and they deserve to know what is going on.”

(underline is my emphasis.)

May the healing begin.

Dear Friends, Colleagues, Patrons and Well-Wishers.

Warm Greetings from Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Staff and Teachers of the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, I wish to express KYM’s deep condemnation of the alleged misbehavior of Mr. Kausthub Desikachar. Our deepest sympathies lie with all the women who have been affected in this issue. Since these allegations have been brought to light, the Board of Trustees has obtained Mr. Kausthub Desikachar’s resignation from the Board and severed all ties with him.

We wish to reiterate that the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, since its inception in 1976 has been functioning as a Public Charitable Trust under the direct supervision of not any one individual but a board of carefully selected trustees who are each distinguished professionals in their own right and most of whom are direct students of Yogacarya T Krishnamacharya and/or our founder, TKV Desikachar.

The Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram has never had and never will have any involvement with any activities of the KHYF.

Every one of the Trustees is deeply committed to taking forth the valuable teaching legacy of T Krishnamacharya as handed down to several generations of teachers by his son, TKV Desikachar. The Board of Trustees firmly believes that the institution and the teachings themselves are far greater than any individual and all efforts will be made to ensure the transmission of these teachings as envisoned by our founder, TKV Desikachar.

In the context of the current situation, it is our deepest wish to carry forth the commendable work, especially in the realms of health and healing, done by the teachers of the KYM over the years. Hence, we are giving the greatest impetus to the uninterrupted transmission of these precious teachings and will ensure that all our activities – yoga studies programmes, teacher training programmes, chanting programs with a thrust on health and healing, individual therapy sessions, individual yoga studies lessons and individual chanting sessions will proceed as before.

Several new programmes will also be announced shortly on our website. We shall also establish a strong support network of old students of T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar who have expressed their willingness to sharing their invaluable knowledge, so that there is continuity and growth in learning for students of this tradition worldwide.

As always we seek your continued support and patronage. We value your feedback and suggestions so that we may carry on our work of spreading the healing message of T Krishnamacharya in a transparent and positive manner.

Best Regards

Dr. Latha Satish
Managing Trustee

thoughts from a yoga subversive on the latest yoga scandal

Ganesh, God of Wisdom, with Vishnu

By now many people know about the latest yoga scandal about Kausthub Desikachar, all the allegations about him regarding sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse.  I learned about it a week before it hit the yoga blogs, first from the search terms people used to find this blog:  “kausthub desikachar scandal”; “kausthub desikachar sex abuse”; “kausthub desikachar allegations”; “kausthub desikchar rape.”

What the frack!  Something huge is going on!  “Uh, oh,” I thought, “this is going to be bigger than John Friend.” Then I got a Facebook message from a teacher asking me, “have you heard….”  I put 2 and 2 together and then I was sent emails with attachments of the letters that have now been published in various yoga blogs.

As many of you know, I have studied yearly at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Manidram since 2005 and have written many times about my experiences there.  I was shocked (but not surprised) when this news came out.  I have no allegiance to Kausthub whatsoever, he was never my direct teacher.  He was my teacher once for a class on Chapters 3 and 4 of the Sutras during my second trip to KYM in 2006.

The allegations made me physically ill.

I will only say that I am privy to information that is not public and that I will not make public.  I will also say that I am appalled that the 2007 letter from a KYM teacher to Desikachar outlining the reasons for her resignation from KYM has been published in yoga blogs.  I don’t know if she knows her letter has been passed around in emails and published in blogs (I have written to her via Facebook as she was one of my teachers 2005-2006), but I am sure no one wants their private letters published without permission.  Maybe she does not mind that her private correspondence was published, but I have to ask the yoga bloggers who made it public: did you ask her permission? Two women yoga bloggers came forward to write about their own experiences with Kausthub but that was their own choice.

I believe KYM must be open and transparent about all of it.  What made me angrier than Kausthub’s actions was that they were ignored by those in charge, including his father.

Many people asked me whether I wanted to speak or write about what was happening.  People expected me to write about it because of how many times I have studied at KYM, but I decided not to because it was too soon and my feelings were too raw.  My plans to take a group to KYM for private classes have been in the works since March and I seriously reconsidered my group trip.

The first person I asked for advice was my teacher, Srivatsa Ramaswami, whom many of you know I have studied with since 2004.  I also study with Ganesh Mohan, whose father also studied with Krishnamacharya.  They are the two I know who are closest to the lineage — they gave me good advice that I will keep private because it is between teacher-student (as was Saraswati’s 2007 letter to Desikachar.)  Not keeping teacher-student confidences private is one thing that Kausthub is accused of.

After MUCH consideration and literally sleepless nights about this, I decided to continue with my group trip to KYM.  Why?  Because I received advice from J. Brown, whose essays and opinions on modern yoga I respect.  He is familiar with the lineage via Mark Whitwell.  He told me that he thinks the situation is different from Anusara because there is no “spiritual head” of the tradition and it is by Desikachar’s example that there is no brand name (KYM does not call the style “viniyoga” as Gary Kraftsow does.)   This means that no one person can lay claim to it and, therefore, no one person’s bad behavior can diminish the power of the teachings.  In his opinion, he thought that I should carry on as planned and “stay true to your practice and the experience you were hoping to provide the people joining you and it will be good enough. The experience of going to India and studying at the Mandiram is not contingent on one particular teacher.”

“Stay true to your practice.”  I will let that resonate for a while.

I also received advice from one of my favorite teachers at KYM who is still there and whom I have known since 2005.   She told me that it is always about the teachings and what we learn from it, that the essence is important and nothing else.

Finally, it was hearing the Vedic chant to Patanjali every morning in my training with Ganesh Mohan this past week that helped me decide.   The chant told me what it’s really all about.   The practice.

That, and the fact that the people who have signed up for my trip told me that the allegations against Kausthub did not make a difference to them — they want the teachings and they trusted my judgment and wisdom about the situation.  As soon as the news hit I sent an email to everyone who had signed up or who was thinking of signing up letting them know how conflicted I was about continuing with my plans.  I asked them to give me a week to make a decision.   One woman told me that she appreciated my honesty and it was because of my  open and honest writing in this blog that attracted her to my trip in the first place.  Only one woman cancelled her plans to go on this trip because of what happened and I respect her decision.  We all have to follow our own hearts and I am at peace with my decision to continue with the trip.

Krishnamacharya’s teachings belong to the yoga world, they do not belong to the institutions or any one person whether it is  Desikachar or his son.  While KHYF is the money-making part of KYM, the two have always been considered separate entities.   Although international students attend classes at KYM, it has more of an “Indian” emphasis and influence, with Indian teachers.  KHYF was always geared to bringing yoga therapy training to the West with Kausthub teaching and overseeing the Western teachers (KHYF did not exist when I first went to KYM.) I rarely saw Kausthub at KYM other than in 2006.

About 6 years ago I considered entering the yoga therapy program (their first training) but decided not because of Kausthub. I thought his responses to my questions were arrogant. He expected me to fly to where he was teaching in the United States for a personal interview even though I had just returned from my second trip to KYM that was within 6 months of the first.  Regarding acceptance into the training, he said a personal interview would take precedence over a telephone interview.  I told him to forget it, that if two trips to KYM within 6 months did not show my allegiance to his grandfather’s teachings I don’t know what would.

Don’t lay this all on KYM.  As I said all during the Anusara debacle, the teachers who knew about John Friend’s shenanigans and said nothing are equally culpable.  The KHYF yoga therapy training program has Western senior teachers who work closely with Kausthub.  If they or any other Western teacher had any inkling that something horrible was going on, they should have stepped forward, gone public, disassociated themselves.  We now know that these things have been going on since at least 2007.  

From all that I know about the situation thus far I think nothing short of an exorcism can help Kausthub.  He needs long-term, intensive help.  Every one of us has a shadow side with secrets and REAL YOGA is about pulling up those demons and dealing with our shadow selves. It hurts like a MFer and it ain’t pretty.

Sometimes we need a radical change and a brand new perspective and the Kausthub situation is giving KYM just that.  I know they have separated themselves from Kausthub.  In an email I received from the Director of Yoga Studies in response to my concerns about bringing my group, she said that KYM “strongly believes in the teachings of Shri Krishnamacharya and Shri Desikachar.” KYM appointed Dr. Latha Satish as the acting managing trustee in place of Kausthub and I know her as a wonderful teacher.

Any situation is never black or white and there are many levels to this, including cultural.   I am absolutely not making excuses for Kausthub’s actions, but one thing I have learned in my 6 trips to India is to not view things in India through a Western lens — and I know that is something very hard to understand if one has not been to India as many times as I have or if one does not live there.   It is something I have discussed privately with people (both Western and Indian) and it is also something I will not write about but one can begin to get some insight from the book Being Indian

All that being said, I am wise enough to not let Kausthab’s personal failings get in the way of my respect for the Krishnamacharya lineage.  What Kausthub did (and he denies nothing) is a disgrace — but he only disgraced himself and his family, not the tradition.  If anything, this should be another wake-up call to yoga practitioners about putting their teachers on pedestals. Funny how people are so quick to question everything in their lives but their own yoga practice and teachers.  I don’t want to hear anything about how a “guru” is a bad thing — click the link and read what Kausthub has to say about the teacher-student relationship (in retrospect, apparently speaking about himself.)

As I heard Kausthub himself say this year, “If the spiritual teachings are valid, yoga will sustain; if yoga is merely a fashion, it will not sustain. The teachings are much larger than any crisis modern yoga is currently experiencing.”

When he said that I thought he was referring to John Friend but I know now he was predicting his own future.